Special to The Morning Star
September and October are two of the best months for cycling in the North Okanagan. With many sunny days, temperatures ranging from 15 to 25 degrees C, and back roads free of summer traffic, it’s a great time to explore on two wheels. A favourite bike ride for us is to Armstrong via Otter Lake Road then returning the same way or via Pleasant Valley Road and Otter Lake X Road.
When our bike legs are stronger, we bike from home along Old Kamloops Road, about a 60 km trip. But earlier in the season we’ll load our bikes onto our car. The best choices for parking are either Spallumcheen Golf Course or O’Keefe Ranch, with permission. We take St Anne’s Road north, staying on Otter Lake Road which veers off to the right. An earthy aroma confirms we are in agricultural country. At about three km we pass Victoria Place RV Bed and Breakfast on a farm which was established in 1886. Across the road orderly rows of pink Echinacea fill a field.
Otter Lake catches the morning light on our right and the road begins to climb. We stop at the shaded T intersection of Grandview Flats Road to guzzle some water and then point our bikes downhill. We streak past a small pull-out and a picnic table at the edge of Otter Lake.
To the left, past Otter Lake Cross Road, is MacDonald Road, a steep road to the west and perched up it is a yellow Scandinavian-style house. This is the home of Country Home Antiques specializing in vintage Scandinavian furnishing, open by appointment only (call Eva Laarson at 250-546-2529 or 546-0434). I confess I have only visited here when I’ve gone by car. The hill is steep plus you might find something to buy!
Soon we are riding under the wide canopy of white ash trees that line the road until the intersection of Wood Avenue. On Pleasant Valley Road we stop at the Brown Derby Cafe and order the Great Breakfast Special. We dig into our sausage, eggs and pan-browned potatoes unconcerned about the wobbly outside plastic table and mixed cutlery. A plaque beside the door tells us this is a historical building built in 1892 that was owned by the son of Overlanders that settled the area in 1862.
Farther down the street we stop in at Chocoliro where Swiss chocolate is hand-molded, and enthusiastically try some samples. Then on Smith Drive, just west of Highway 97, we visit the Village Cheese Company, part restaurant, gift store and cheese factory. We taste samples of artisan cheese: wild smoked salmon cheddar, Canadian maple cheddar, horse-radish cheddar and, my favourite, Gewurztraminer-ripened soft cheese.
It is a slow uphill ride south on Pleasant Valley Road out of Armstrong. We pass the Olde Schoolhouse. Built in 1884, this one-room schoolhouse served the settler families for almost 40 years. Now, during the summer, it opens for coffee, tea or lunch, served on fine china. It’s best to check ahead for hours by calling owner Shelia Luniw at 250-546 9190.
We pass Good’N Plenty market garden before turning right onto Crozier Road. The next right puts us onto Otter Lake X Road and we coast down some undulating hills before coming to Otter Lake Road. We now retrace our path up a steep hill, past Otter Lake and south on St. Anne’s Road.
The entire trip clocks in at 33 (only about 24 km if you go to and from via Otter Lake Road). That’s what we call a good bike ride!
Moira McColl is a freelance writer and cycling enthusiast in Vernon. This is part of her Urban Wanderer series on cycling in the area, with the hope that it will encourage locals and visitors alike to explore the North Okanagan on two wheels.